Profile: Ian Strachan


IS

Ian Strachan in Track Road's 2001 play "The Hold Up" (photo by Derek Smith)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?
For about 20 years.  But before I was involved in “theatre” I was involved in “drama,” through church and school.  I adapted and directed and starred in a Tolstoy play when I was a teenager and performed it for church at C. W. Sawyer Primary.

What inspired you to become involved?
My mother was a playwright (though not a nationally recognized one) and I was inspired by her I believe. So I was writing short plays since Junior High.  I remember dramatizing scenes of the Bible for my Religious Knowledge Class at CH Reeves.  Scenes like “Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors.”

In what capacity(ies) do you participate in Theatre?
I have done it all.  Directing is by far the hardest.  I can write a play much more easily than direct one.  In writing I have only myself to coax, to discipline and to engage.  Once a story takes hold of me the scenes just come.  Directing is an entirely different animal.  Particularly directing in The Bahamas when you have no money to spend.

Can you list the productions that you have participated in over the years? 
I have written seven plays.
Pa and the Preacher (1990),
The Mysterious Mister Maphusa
(1990),
No Seeds in Babylon
(1991),
Fatal Passage (1992),
Black Crab’s Tragedy  (1998),
Diary of Souls (1999),
The Devil and Jacinta (2009)  (also called The Devil on the Cross).

I have directed nine plays for national audiences.  My own work:
No Seeds in Babylon.
1997,
Black Crab’s Tragedy. 1998,
Diary of Souls.
 1999,
The Devil and Jacinta, 2009
Pa and the Preacher 2010.

And the original work of other Bahamian playwrights:
Deon Simms’ Slaps (2000),
Charles Huggins’ The Hold Up (2001),
Nickeva Eve’s Island Sex (2002),
Ward Minnis’ The Cabinet (2011)
I produced Da Market Fire by Emille Hunt (2003).

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre? Good and bad.
Performing to three people in an auditorium in Freeport.  Definitely the low point of my theatre career.  Either that or the catastrophic opening ceremony of the CAC Games when the athletes stole my set before we actually put on our show. (The bad comes to mind more easily.)  High points: performing No Seeds in Edinburgh in 1991.  The staging of Fatal Passage (which coincided with the 1992 election and a hurricane).  Taking Diary of Souls to New Orleans and Barbados.  And restaging my first play, Pa and the Preacher in 2010.

How do you feel about Theatre in The Bahamas? What are its weak and strong points? How active is it? How can we make it better?
To make theatre stronger in this country we need: an endowed national theatre company; an equipped national theatre space; an endowed Dundas Centre; a Bachelors degree in Theatre or Performance at COB; a transparent national grant system for theatre projects; cash prizes for new plays.  These will go a long way.  Shakespeare in Paradise is a great thing.  I think also, the state should commit to funding quality recordings of theatrical productions (ones that they have helped fund through grants, for instance, or any production where the producers are willing to allow the public station broadcasting rights).  This will ensure that all Bahamians are exposed to this important form of cultural expression.  Theatre is the most socially relevant Bahamian art form; it should be experienced by as many Bahamians as possible.

Strachan as Pol in TRT's "Diary of Souls" (photo by Peter Ramsay)

What do you do to prepare for a part? 
It would take a while for me to reconstruct my process for you here. But I would say I try to guided by The Method.  The actor must believe in and be loyal to the character.  The actor must join the world of the character.  The actor must summon real lived emotions and experiences and manifest them.  Pay attention to detail.  If it feels like you’re “acting” then you are. Your actions and utterances, should feel real and authentic to you.  If they do, they will be real and authentic for your audience.   Be what you know.  If you intend to imitate, go beyond mastering the simple speech of a well known person.  Yes. you can talk or laugh like a certain public figure.  Good.  Can you cry like him?  Really cry?  Really feel scared like he would?  That takes a level of commitment and surrender of self that most are incapable of or unwilling to attempt.  I am not a great actor.  I hope  I am competent.  Perhaps one day I will take on a role that I feel is important enough to strive to be great in.  Probably not.

How do you prepare to direct a show? Are there any special challenges that you must overcome when directing in The Bahamas? 
Many who want to act do not want to study, prepare and be instructed.  They lack discipline.  I hate the fact that actors won’t take notes during practice.  You have to give them the same direction day after day. Acting is a craft and a discipline.  There is natural talent, or a natural disposition which makes it easier for you to be successful but you still need to listen to instruction, advice or critique.  Some people lack humility and are selfish.  Such people are harder to direct.  I confess I have also been my own worst enemy because I cast some people sometimes who don’t have any facility for acting the part; I do it because I want a warm body.  But truly, they cause me such grief that I’d be better off hunting for the right person.  

 The director’s job is also harder if he doesn’t have the right support; if he must be his own stage manager, his own set builder, his own producer, his own marketing man, if he must be one of the actors.    Each of these takes you one more step away from being optimally effective at directing. 

What does it take to write a play?
Your questions are unreasonable!  I’d be here for days answering this.  The dramatist must ask the question: why do I want to tell this story?  Is this the story for this time, or a story for all time?  As for that last question, both have their place. Most of all, though, what is the conflict?  Who are the contestants in the struggle?  Why should someone care who wins this particular struggle?  Are you always complicating, deepening, tightening the conflict? If not, then cut, cut, cut.  Always remember, the degree to which things are getting more and more effed up is the degree to which your audience is interested in your play.

Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
Try out for a part.  If you don’t get a part, volunteer to work on a show in any capacity where help is needed.  Be positive, friendly, generous, and remain focused on the job at hand.  People underestimate how important concentration and focus are in theatre, whether you are on stage or off. 

Who were your mentors in Theatre?
Shakepeare. Senorita Strachan.  James Catalyn.  Winston Saunders. Philip Burrows.  Nicolette Bethel.  Wole Soyinka. Derek Walcott. Amiri Baraka.  Stanislavksi. Harold Clurman. Brecht. Artaud. Beckett.  August Wilson.

How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
Every time I direct I swear it’s my last time.  So this is not a good question for a man like me.  Right now I feel like theatre is either an irresistible whore or a syphilitic prince charming.  Take your pick.

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
Horse and Father’s Day: Bahamian. Caribbean: Dream on Monkey Mountain.  African: Death and the King’s Horseman or Lion and the Jewel.  Euro-American: Chalk Circle and Threepenny Opera. Shakespeare: Tempest, Merchant, Othello.

In your years as an actor, director and writer have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
I have received government support. Yes.  The government helped fund my documentary.   The government has granted me lower rates on rental facilities.  The government has supported a children’s summer drama workshop I was involved with.  They can and have helped.  They can do more also.

What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?
See above.

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Profile: Dana J. Ferguson


Dana

Dana J. Ferguson (courtesy of danajferguson.com)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?
For as long as I can remember!

What inspired you to become involved?
My mother was a performer and did a number of projects while she was pregnant with me – I figure something rubbed off! But I decided to seriously pursue it as a career when I saw Romeo and Juliet performed live in England while on a summer school trip.  That performance changed my life and I knew it was something I had to do.

In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre?
Actor, Assistant Stage Manager, Wardrobe Mistress, Set Design – and in any other way I can help out, I do!

Dana as Lizzie in "Stamping, Shouting and Singing Home" (courtesy of danajferguson.com)

Can you list the productions that you have participated in over the years?
I’ve been involved in a number of different productions.

2010,  Her (and all other Bahamian characters), DAT BAHAMIAN T’ING, Yellowtale Theatre Company, Robin Belfield
2010,  Hermia, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, Ringplay Productions, Patti-Anne Ali
2009, Ariel, THE TEMPEST, Ringplay Productions , Patti-Anne Ali & Craig Pinder
2009, Narrator, HEAVEN’S GROCERY STORE, World Methodist Conference
2008, Lizzie Walker, STAMPING, SHOUTING AND SINGING HOME, Forest Forge Theatre & Nuffield Theatre, Russ Tunney
2008, Negro Woman, Matron, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, Nuffield Theatre, Patrick Sandford
2007, Wendy, PETER PAN, Nuffield Theatre, Patrick Sandford
2007, Woman In The Green Dress (Lead)/All Bahamian Roles, THAT BAHAMIAN T’ING, Nuffield Theatre & Yellow Tale Theatre, Robin Belfield
2007,  Ariel [The Tempest], WILL AT THE WEALD, The Company Presents, Patrick Sandford
2007,  Phoebe [As You Like It], WILL AT THE WEALD, The Company Presents, Robin Belfield
2006, Woman In The Green Dress (Lead)/All Bahamian Roles, DAT BAHAMIAN T’ING, Forest Arts/Nuffield Theatre, Robin Belfield
2006, Pimple, SHE STOOPS TO CONQUERBristol Old Vic Theatre School, Chris Harris
2006, Dorinda, THE BEAUX’ STRATAGEM, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Chris Harris
2006, Lady Hunstanton, A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Bonnie Hurren
2006, Cecily Cardew, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Bonnie Hurren
2006, Duchess Eleanor [Henvy VI], UNEASY LIES THE HEAD THAT WEARS THE CROWN, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Sonia Fraser
2005, Titania, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, David Collins
2005, Lady [The Lady and The Lion], GRIMM’S FAIRY TALES , Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Elwyn Johnson
Wendy

Peter and Wendy (courtesy of danajferguson.com)

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?
A Good Memory – I once worked with a young lady who was extremely self-concious about her work, which was ludicrous because she’s really very good!  She asked me to help coach her, so I did – and when she hit the stage for opening night, she was electric.  The audience loved her and it made me feel good to know that I was able to help her make that happen.

A Bad Memory – I get really upset working with people who don’t take the job seriously.  Unless you’re a one-man show, you are part of an ensemble and are accounable to the rest of the team so you need to do your part in making the scene/show etc work.  Failure to commit to memorising lines in a timely fashion or even showing up to set on time frustrates the entire process. I once worked with a guy who sang his praises about being a committed artist and true professional – but then he came on set to shoot the scenes and was duller than dishwater!  Totally flat, lackluster performance… he couldn’t put his money where his mouth was.  Suffice it to say, he never got work with that director again.  That was a painful day on set, let me tell ya!

Hermia in love. (from left to right, Matthew Wildgoose, Dana and Nicole Fair, courtesy of danajferguson.com)

How do you feel about Theatre in The Bahamas? What are its weak and strong points? How active is it? How can we make it better?
I’d love for the cultural arts in the Bahamas to be respected and revered.  To inspire the young and young at heart.  Art should never be censored – but unfortunately, the Christian Council plays a role in regulating Bahamian art, resulting in many productions losing out on the opportunity to live, breathe and exist in spite of which social or religious faction that work  may offend.  Art should spark discussion and debate. It should be taken seriously.  The Bahamas is entrenched with deep and meaningful history that is lost on today’s youth.  The development of an arts council to aid in promoting and protecting art and the artist would go a long way in preserving and promoting Bahamian cultural arts both here and abroad.  Bahamain culture is more than Junkanoo.  It’s storytelling and photography, painting and straw work, music and dance.  It’s theatre and design, cinematic creations with Bahamian directors, actors and singers who add something to their creations that no other nationality can replicate. Instead of working together to promote Bahamian talent, we have people that deliberately put stumbling blocks in the way of young directors and actors etc in an effort to frustrate their efforts to develop our culture.  Until we learn to work together, theatre will continue to be sporadic.

What do you do to prepare for a part?
The process varies depending on the project but I always start with reading the entire script a few times.  Then I start paying attention to my character and the relationships they have with other characters in the play .  But with every play, I always return to the script – sometimes you get stuck thinking a certain way but re-reading the text will help you unravel the many layers to get to the truth.  And at the end of the day, an actor should always be truthful to the script and the character.  That makes for the best performances.

Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
There are so many aspects of theatre that one can get involved in.  For those who are shy, some of the most important work happens behind the scenes – lights, sound, costumes, stage managing, script doctor…the list is endless.  Be punctual – Bahamian time does NOT count.  And over-communicate with your director and colleagues.

Who were your mentors in Theatre?
My mother .  She’s one of the best performers I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
I’m happy to be involved as much as I possibly can for as long as I can.

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
Men Talk was pretty funny – I remember seeing it years ago with some of the women in my family and we had a grand ol’ time!  Light was also very good – it was one of the first plays I watched when I returned to Nassau from Britain.  Then there is the token go-to classics, like woman Take Two.

Her

Dana as Her in "Dat Bahamian Ting" (courtesy of danajferguson.com)

In your years as an actor, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
Yes – Junkanoo.  But that was many, MANY years in the making.  Theatre has a long way to go yet to compete with Junkanoo.

What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?
It would be wonderful for the government to willingly assist in establishing an independent council that could aid with financing the numerous projects floating around at the moment.  I’ve had the pleasure of reading quite a few scripts that are really very good, but without the financial backing or support, those scripts will never see the light of day.  And that would be a tragedy for Bahamina artists, because there are some truly talented people in this little country.

Profile: Anthony “Skeebo” Roberts


Anthony as Stephano in SiP's 2009 "The Tempest" (courtesy of Ringplay.org)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?
For 23 years.
What inspired you to become involved?
I started out as a child in prep school under the hand of Thelma Gibson and really enjoyed it from that time. I have always liked performing & entertaining.

In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre?
Actor, writer, director.

Can you list the productions that you have participated in over the years?
Will have to send you a bio (can’t remember right off). LOL

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?
I have no bad memories, though sometimes things do not go as planned…they are all good memories. I always have fun on stage. There are really two good memories I can recall right now – I was MC for the Ministry of Tourism’s show in New York back called Celebration at The Apollo Theatre. It was my most euphoric moment on the stage & it had to do with the fact that at that moment I had the realization that I was in The Apollo Theatre where the immortals of actors/performers once performed.

How do you feel about Theatre in The Bahamas?
A couple of years ago, (perhaps two), I actually thought that theatre had a momentum but unfortunately it seems as if that came to an end. We are just beginning to get a new ‘drive’ I feel.
What are its weak and strong points?
Our strong point is that we are endeavoring to do Bahamian works and address those types of issues. Comedy seems to be the main draw & this is good.
How active is it?
The activeness would depend on good theatre (the physical).
How can we make it better?
By what we are attempting to do (S.I.P.) and other groups who can establish and recognize their niche’ doing the same thing.

What do you do to prepare for a part?
Try to find the essence of the character and the objective of what the character is trying to or could accomplish.

Any advice for those who want to get involved in Theatre in any capacity?
DO IT…JUST GET INVOLVED…DO WHAT YOU LOVE DOING!

Who were your mentors in Theatre?
Philip Burrows, Keith Wisdom (locally) and Humphrey Bogart, Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier and within the more recent years Quentin Tarantino (internationally).

How do you see your future in Bahamian Theatre?
Directing and getting more people to appreciate & become involved in writing/performing, etc.

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
The LandLord.

In your years as an actor, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?
NO.

What role, if any, should the government play in not just theatre but the arts as a whole?
I feel that the government should seek to be one of the leading patrons not only in terms of finance (providing suitable performance sites) but should seek to encourage more corporate world involvement.

Profile: Jane Poveromo


Alonso

Jane backstage at SiP's "The Tempest" (courtesy of R.Whitehouse 2009)

How long have you been involved in Theatre?

I have been involved in the Bahamas since 1983.

What inspired you to become involved?

I was trying to get my ‘foot in the door’ for a long time. I played Toad in Toad of Toad Hall in Primary school and that got the juices going. I did some stuff in college too. When I came to Nassau marriage got in the way. Then by chance I went to pick up Sammy Bethel from a rehearsal at the Dundas for Witness for the Prosecution and Warren Jones put a script in my hand and asked me to read and I got the part of the judge.

 
In what capacity (ies) do you participate in Theatre? 

I’m an actor. My first audition for Philip Burrows was for The Dark of the Moon and until Patti Anne-Ali came down in 2009 I never had to audition for a part again. I have been in over 20 productions at the Dundas and one at COB, our first Bahamian Macbeth. I have also done pantomime and worked with Keith Wisdom. I was also part of the group who performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1991 and travelled to Freeport for a couple of productions.

Can you list the productions that you have participated in over the years?

Judge in Witness for the Prosecution (1983),
Mrs Summery in Dark of the Moon (1984),
small role, chorus, dancer in Mother Goose (1985),
Rose Kirk in Nuts (1986),
Vera in Stepping Out (1986),
Baroness Roach in Cinderella (1987),
Martha in The Rimers of Eldritch (1987),
Woman 3 in I Nehemiah Remember When (1987),
Blanche in Brighton Beach Memoirs (1988),
Teacher in You Can Lead a Horse to Water (1988),
Woman 3 in Nehemiah part 2 (1989),
Dis we Tings (1989),
Mother in True West (1989),
Evil Queen in Snow White (1989),
Blues for Mr Charlie (1990),
Dis We Tings  2 (1990),
Teacher in You Can Lead a Horse to Water at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Dundas (1991),
Woman 3 in Nehemiah part3 (1992),
Music of The Bahamas (1992),
Mrs Shandig in The Runner Stumbles (Dansa award) (1993),
Betty Meeks in The Foreigner (Dansa award) (1994),
Gwendolyn Pigeon in The Odd Couple (Dansa award) (1995),
Woman 3 in Nehemiah part 4 (1998),
Witch/Porter in Macbeth (2001 & 2004),
Daisy Werthan in Driving Miss Daisy (2008),
Michaela Alonso-Naples-Sands in The Tempest (Shakespeare in Paradise) (2009),
Matilda Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare in Paradise) (2010)

Jane backstage at "The Tempest" (courtesy of J. Poveromo 2009)

What are some of your most memorable moments in Theatre?

Memorable moments….mmmm?… have to think about that.

Who were your mentors in Theatre?

My mentor of course is Philip Burrows. Theatre was on fire for years while he was doing rep. Now hopefully with SiP it will take off again.

What is your favorite Bahamian play?
And my favourite Bahamian play is You Can Lead a Horse to Water.
In your years as an actor, have you seen the government support the arts in a tangible way?

Government support….not really. They need to respect theatre and the arts the same as they do sports but fat chance!